Scott Parazynski Profile

With over eight weeks in space, forty-seven hours on spacewalks and 23,000,000 miles in orbit, astronaut Dr. Scott Parazynski brings an inspirational story and the knowledge he has gained about leadership and team-building back to Earth.

A graduate of Stanford University and Stanford medical school, Dr. Parazynski was selected in 1992 to join NASA’s Astronaut Corps; over the course of the next seventeen years he flew on five space shuttle missions and undertook seven spacewalks. He was allocated numerous senior leadership roles and took part in many space firsts, including the first joint US-Russian spacewalk and repairing a solar array wing further away from an airlock than any other astronaut had ever gone before.

A keen climber since his teens, Dr. Parazynski has the honor of being the first astronaut to scale Mount Everest. Also an avid scuba diver, he led a scientific dive in the world’s highest lake at 19,700 feet in the Andes on a NASA sponsored expedition. He is also a keen pilot with over 2500 flight hours on various classes of aircraft.

Dr. Parazynski currently holds a post as Chief Medical Officer and Director of the UTMB Centre for Polar Medical Operations, which is responsible for the National Science Foundation’s medical screening and healthcare delivery in Antarctica. A member of the visiting/adjunct faculty of several universities worldwide, he also serves as a board member for several organizations and companies.

The author of many papers, specializing in space physiology, Dr. Parazynski has received many prestigious awards, including five NASA Spaceflight Medals, two Distinguished Service Medals and two Exceptional Service Medals. He has appeared on all major US broadcast networks, given keynotes to prestigious medical schools, corporations and non-profit organizations, and starred as team physician and summit climber in “Everest: Beyond the Limit” on the Discovery Channel.

  • View Extended/Alternate Bio

    Dr. Scott Parazynski has spoken all over the world about the rigors, risks and rewards of exploration in extreme environments, deriving important lessons in teamwork, risk management and leadership under the most demanding circumstances, on or off the planet. Among his many presentations, he has:

      • Delivered hundreds of keynotes to corporate leaders, industry and scientific conventions, and major non-profit organizations
      • Presented Medical Grand Rounds at some of the world’s most prestigious medical schools, hospitals and conferences
      • Appeared on all major US broadcast networks as well as many overseas TV networks, discussing various aspects of the space program, the importance of exploration, STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and technological innovation
      • Filmed as team physician and summit climber during Discovery Channel’s 3rd season of: “Everest: Beyond the Limit”

    Dr. Scott Parazynski has lived and traveled all over the world, spending many of his grade school and high school years in places such as Dakar, Senegal; Beirut, Lebanon; Tehran, Iran; and Athens, Greece. A graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Medical School, he went on to train at Harvard and in Denver in preparation for a career in emergency medicine and trauma. Dr. Parazynski is also physiologist with expertise in human adaptation to stressful environments.

    In 1992 he was selected to join NASA’s Astronaut Corps and eventually flew 5 Space Shuttle Missions and conducted 7 spacewalks (EVAs). In his 17 years as an Astronaut, he served in numerous senior leadership roles, including EVA Branch Chief and the Lead Astronaut for Space Shuttle Thermal Protection System Inspection & Repair (in the aftermath of the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy). Mission highlights include a global ozone mapping mission on STS-66; leading the first joint US-Russian spacewalk during STS-86 while docked to the Russian space station Mir; serving as Senator John Glenn’s crewmate and “personal physician” during STS-95; and conducting EVA assembly of the Canadian-built space station arm during STS-100.

    In October 2007, Dr. Parazynski led the EVA team on STS-120, a highly complex space station assembly flight, during which he performed 4 EVAs. The fourth and final EVA is regarded by many as one of the most challenging and dangerous ever performed. During the EVA he was positioned by a 90-foot robotic boom farther than any orbiting astronaut had ever ventured from the safety of their airlock. During this EVA he had to repair a fully energized solar array wing. The tremendous coordinated effort in orbit and on the ground by Mission Control and other engineering experts has been likened to the Space Shuttle and Space Station era’s “Apollo 13 moment.”

    All told, Dr. Parazynski has spent over 8 weeks in space with more than 47 hours outside on spacewalks. While he has traveled over 23 million miles in orbit he has yet to earn a single frequent flyer mile!

    In addition to being a life-long SCUBA diver and accomplished mountaineer, Scott is also a commercial, instrument, multiengine and seaplane-rated pilot with over 2,500 flight hours. He began climbing in his teens, and has climbed in the Alaska Range, the Cascades, the Rockies, the Alps, the Andes and the Himalayas. On his second attempt to scale Mt. Everest, on May 20, 2009, he became the first astronaut to stand on top of the world. Additionally, as part of a NASA-sponsored expedition to the high Andes, he conducted a scientific dive in the summit caldera lake of 19,700-foot Licancabur volcano, the world’s highest lake.

    He currently serves as Chief Medical Officer and Director of the UTMB Center for Polar Medical Operations, helping oversee all medical screening and healthcare delivery in Antarctica for the National Science Foundation. He serves on the Boards of Directors of several organizations and companies, as well as on the visiting or adjunct faculty at several universities around the world.

    Dr. Parazynski has numerous publications in the field of space physiology, and has a particular expertise in human adaptation to stressful environments.

    He is the recipient of a number of prestigious awards, including: five NASA Spaceflight Medals, two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, two NASA Exceptional Service Medals, two Vladimir Komarov Diplomas from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, two Flight Achievement Awards from the American Astronomical Association, the Aviation Week Laureate Award, the Ellis Island Family Heritage Award, Gold Medal from the American Institute of Polish Culture, the National Eagle Scout Association Outstanding Eagle Award and the Lowell Thomas Award from the Explorers Club. Additionally, he a member of the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame.

Scott Parazynski Speaking Videos

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Scott Parazynski's Speech Descriptions

Dr. Parazynski brings his incredible experiences and valuable scientific expertise to a series of fascinating keynote speeches that relate his work in some of the most extreme environments on the planet.

Although he might appear to be a risk taker, in fact Dr. Parazynski is a risk manager, and he explains how preparation in industry can eliminate the need to take risks by managing it. He explains how every employee in successful companies feel an obligation to innovate and improve the company’s processes.

Dr. Parazynski’s experience of leadership in the face of extreme adversity makes for fascinating and valuable lessons, delivered with the aid of extraordinary stories, amazing imagery and relatable good humor.

Managing Risk vs. "Taking Risk"
Scott has zoomed down luge tracks at breakneck speeds, flown high performance supersonic aircraft, walked in space at considerable peril, summited Mount Everest after rupturing a lumbar disc on his first attempt, performed a scientific dive in the world's highest lake and faced myriad other technical challenges in the planet's most extreme environments—but he is no daredevil. He prepares for work in these challenging realms by exhaustive study, training, previsualization (of success as well as overcoming obstacles) and having a backup to the backup plan. Knowing how complex systems work and how they might fail is one of many skills in his toolkit, and his lessons learned are imminently relatable to all industries. An approachable storyteller, he warmly shares his experiences in a way that leaves audiences knowing they can translate them into their own lives.

The Opportunity and The Obligation to Innovate
The Requisite Innovator's Mindset: Open-mindedness and the relentless hunt for problems that need to be fixed.

For a company to be truly disruptive and grow, it must create an environment wherein every employee is not only allowed to contribute to the advancement of the mission, they feel a deep-seated Obligation to Innovate. That's the kind of environment and work ethic Scott has spent a lifetime advancing: from developing tools and techniques to recover from the Space Shuttle Columbia accident to developing innovative medical devices and enhancing safety on the slopes of the world's highest mountains, he draws on his background working in extreme environments as a catalyst for innovation in daily life. He can transfer this mindset to your workforce with powerful examples from aerospace, medicine, mountaineering and everyday life with engaging, relatable stories and good humor!

The Road Less Traveled: Finding Your Way Towards Really Making a Difference
Dr. Parazynski has spoken all over the world about the rigors, risks and rewards of exploration in extreme environments, deriving important lessons in teamwork, risk management and leadership under the most demanding circumstances, on or off the planet.

He derives lessons from an international upbringing in war-torn Beirut and Tehran, from those who inspired him to pursue his passions, and from "the view from the top of the planet," which he attained via rocket as well as on foot... As he says, "Life's greatest lessons come from outside the classroom"—based on the people we meet, the experiences we pursue, and having an openness to new challenges. Through perseverance, rigorous preparation and a willingness to fail every once and awhile, enormous rewards often ensue... He shares his path through life with stunning imagery, good humor and relatable anecdotes. Your employees will see their own pathways towards making a difference!

Murphy's Law on the Final Frontier: you'd better be prepared!
Dr. Parazynski has spoken all over the world about the rigors, risks and rewards of exploration in extreme environments, deriving important lessons in teamwork, risk management and leadership under the most demanding circumstances, on or off the planet.

He derives lessons from a wide range of spaceflight missions and mountaineering expeditions where in-depth preparation saved the day, and often much more. A focused approach to preparation for critical tasks leads to success, even if via unforseen "detours."

Leadership Under Extreme Adversity, on and off the Planet
Scott has brought diverse teams together, challenging enormous odds on, well above and underneath the earth's surface. Drawing on his lessons learned from the harsh vacuum of space, the route to the summit of Everest, and within tense operating rooms and board rooms, he relates attributes of situationally appropriate leadership and company culture that have yielded enormous successes over many years. Punctuated by great storytelling, breathtaking imagery and a self deprecating good humor, his style is relatable and inspirational to all audiences!

Scott Parazynski on Speaking

I aim to share my philosophy of dreaming big and having the tenacity and strategies to make them come true.

SPEAKING.COM: What do you want people to learn / take away from your presentations?

PARAZYNSKI: I truly love taking people to places they’ve never been, through my imagery and words, and then sharing my lessons learned that translate into everyday corporate and personal environments. Most importantly, I aim to share my philosophy of dreaming big and having the tenacity and strategies to make them come true.

SPEAKING.COM: What kind of special prep work do you do prior to an event? How to you prepare for your speaking engagements?

PARAZYNSKI: I work very closely with the conference organizing committee or representative to learn as much as I can about the organization and industry that I’ll be addressing. Not only do I brand my presentations with the appropriate logos, I look to their strategic vision as well as industry challenges and opportunities to shape my presentation. Said another way, I don’t have a “stock” talk – each and every presentation is catered to the goals of my clients.

SPEAKING.COM: Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements / unusual situations arise while on the road?

PARAZYNSKI: On one occasion, I was asked to give a keynote for a reunion of World War II pilots, perhaps the greatest honor ever. They were excited to hear my talk as patriotic Americans, but I humbly felt my contributions were far overshadowed by their heroic deeds as young men a generation or two earlier. I could’ve listened to their stories for days!

On another occasion I was asked to sub in for Walter Cronkite at the last second (he’d sprained his ankle and couldn’t attend), to introduce my crewmate Senator John Glenn at a huge awards ceremony. Talk about pressure, but thankfully I didn’t trip on the way to the podium and it all went extremely well!

I have a powerful message for any organization that wants to grow, to innovate and/or to become the very best they can be.

SPEAKING.COM: What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?

PARAZYNSKI: I think I have a powerful message for any organization that wants to grow, to innovate and/or to become the very best they can be. Themes of leadership, teamwork, risk management, and innovation are the tools to excel in today’s marketplace. I share exciting but relatable stories that I’m told inspire, while also delivering methods to apply my lessons learned at home and in the workplace.

Secondly, I truly love speaking to young audiences about the promise of their futures, particularly if they’re “all in” and really apply themselves towards their goals. I reinforce the value of studying math and science, even if they’re headed towards other types of careers, since these are the languages of the future economy, and everyone needs some fluency in them.

SPEAKING.COM: What inspired you to start doing speaking engagements?

PARAZYNSKI: I really enjoy meeting new people and learning about other industries, and the two-way nature of public speaking allows me to travel the world and do just that.

As a former NASA astronaut, a part of my day job was actually sharing the importance of the space program to the tax paying public, but now I’m able to expand my messaging to many other exciting areas.

SPEAKING.COM: Which of your keynote topics are the most popular?

PARAZYNSKI: Leadership and risk management are areas many organizations gravitate towards, but in this competitive marketplace, distinguishing themselves through innovation has become paramount. “The Obligation and Opportunity to Innovate” theme has become a real hit… but as I said, I don’t have a particular stock talk. I work with the client to focus my keynote on their SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), as desired.

SPEAKING.COM: How much do case studies, personal stories and/or humor factor into your keynote speech content?

PARAZYNSKI: I weave my non-linear path through life into every talk I give, including a healthy dose of self-deprecation! Exclusive Interview with Scott Parazynski
Bringing Innovative Leadership Lessons Back to Earth
Fascinating interview with Scott, where he discusses:

  • How people can nurture innovative thinking in their daily lives.
  • Tips for managing risk.
  • The importance of leaders as team players.
  • Ways people can reach lofty goals. Read the Full Interview
  • "The secret to any success I may have had in life is not related to simply having a vision of doing big, bold things...Rather, my ability to “deconstruct” a pathway to achieving my goals is what’s gotten me there."
    - Scott Parazynski

    What People are Saying about Seeing Scott Speak

    Rating Entries

    “Scott Parazynski’s presentation was highly motivational and inspirational. Our attendees thoroughly enjoyed learning of his many adventures and discovering the parallels with their professional goals. Scott offered to stay for a meet and greet, which many attendees took advantage of, in order to meet him in person after his talk. Scott has a personal style that makes him approachable and inspiring. Several commented that Scott Parazynski is one of the best keynotes that presented with ASLMS in quite some time. Thank you!”
        American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, Inc.

    “Scott Parazynski, NASA astronaut and the only person to have both flown in space and summited Mount Everest, gave a memerising talk about his adventures, the end of the US government’s space [Shuttle] program and the future of private enterprise in space.”
        Summit at Sea presentation

    “Your experiences as a NASA astronaut and adventurer gave our business audience a fresh perspective on the “No Guts, No Glory” conference theme and helped set the positive tone for the rest of the event. Our goal was to provide participants with new strategies and avenues for success in a changing economy, and your talk helped us achieve the right collective mindset to start things off.”
        Anthea Stratigos, CEO, Outsell, Inc.

    “Please find enclosed a letter from our students which I think encapsulates how we all felt about your visit. … perhaps one of the most inspiring hours we have ever had.”
        Mark Olejnik, Head of School, Leckford Place School, Oxford, UK

    “As one of many tourists who recently met Scott at the KSC and heard him talk about his life and work, I simply wanted to say thank you for his time, his warm welcome to a bunch of Brits and to the inspiration he has provided to my two sons. I believe that they both now have a new hero.”
        Bill Hodson

    “Thank you so much for appearing at our Meet an Astronaut Friday last week. Your presentations were terrific and were a great added experience for our general admission guests. Our lunch guests really enjoyed themselves as well. The surveys they completed indicated that they had a wonderful time and were so happy to meet you. We sincerely appreciate your participation in our program and hope that with your help, we can not only educate our guests, but inspire a future generation of explorers and scientists at the same time. Looking forward to seeing you in October.”
        Nancy Bille

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